Brining, this is new to me. I mean, I know that capers are brined, cheese and and Turkey too…. I know I like it but I’d never done it! What does it do, how do you do it? Thankfully, it’s a no brainer and you’ll never go back to grilling chicken breast without brining it first.
Much like a marinade and far from it in the sense that you need to soak your chicken breasts in a liquid for a while in order to flavour and tenderize them. Brine however is like super marinade! You can brine-marinate chicken breasts for as little as 30 minutes to 2 hours and they’ll be incredibly tender and juicy. With a traditional marinade, you may have to let it sit for hours in the fridge or overnight and sometimes, it can still be dry once grilled.
Brine is very watery and salty, like in this recipe, it calls for 1 cup of water and as much as a 1/4 cup of salt vs a marinade which often has an oily or creamy texture and salt is not absolutely necessary. In a marinade, it’s the acidity like vinegar or lemon that breaks down the meat to tenderize and flavour it.
Salt and water are key here. The salt carries moisture into the muscle tissue of the meat, thus softening it and flavouring it.
Why is it that I and everyone I know doesn’t brine their chicken?? We absolutely should! However if you grill chicken a lot, just note that with brining, the meat does soak up its fair share of sodium so keep that in mind.
Hey! Wanna see my process? Check out my highlight called Brined Chicken (duh) for the “step by step” on my instagram account @vanilla_bean_montreal
|Prep Time||15 minutes|
|Cook Time||15 minutes|
|Passive Time||30-90 minutes|
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts preferably organic
- FOR THE BRINE:
- ½ cup brown sugar loosely packed
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp. red chili flakes
- 3 cups ice
- OPTIONAL ADD-ONS FOR BRINE:
- 4-5 peppercorns
- 3 juniper berries
- 2 whole dried chilis
- 1 lemon or orange halved
- 1 bay leaf
- Begin by preparing the brine. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat combine brown sugar, salt, water, garlic cloves and chili flakes and any optional ingredients. Heat until the sugar and salt have fully dissolved and simmering, but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the 3 cups of ice, stirring to fully melt.
- Pour cooled brine into a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout so it’s easier to pour. In a resealable bag place chicken breasts and pour the cooled brine mixture over the chicken. Seal the bag and place in a bowl in case there are any leaks. Refrigerate chicken between 30 minutes and 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat (375°) and clean and oil grates. Alternately, preheat a heavy bottomed grill pan on medium-high. Oil it lightly with a brush and soak up any excess with a paper towel.
- Remove the brined chicken from the bag and throw away brining liquid. Thoroughly pat dry the chicken with paper towels and let rest for about 10 minutes while the grill is preheating. No need to season the chicken with salt as the brine was very salty. (You can always salt them once cooked and still very warm if you need to.)
- Once the chicken breasts hit the grill/grill pan, lower the heat to medium or medium low (if using gas cooktop) and don’t touch for about 5 minutes. When the edges of the chicken breast start to turn white, flip them. Pro tip: In order to get crosshatched grill marks, rotate ¼ turn halfway through the cooking on each side. Remove from grill and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Safe internal temperature for chicken is 165F.
I recommend pounding down your chicken breasts lightly with a meat mallet until you’ve achieved an even thickness. We’re not making cutlets so don’t pound them out too thin! Just thin out the thickest part a little for even cooking. I place the chicken breasts in a resealable back and pound them with the flat side of the mallet.
Recipe by the lovely and inspiring Chef Megan Mitchell